SCA 5 Needs to be Defeated

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 (SCA 5), is set for legislative hearing today. It deserves a quick defeat. Advanced by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, SCA 5 would lower the current two-thirds vote requirement to pass local school district parcel taxes to 55% percent.

Here are the reasons SCA 5 is horrible for California homeowners.

First, SCA 5 is a direct attack on Proposition 13. Prop. 13 limits the base property tax, called the ad valorem tax, to one percent. To ensure that local governments didn’t heap additional taxes on homeowners, Prop. 13 requires a two-thirds vote for additional “special taxes” of which parcel taxes are a particularly insidious variety. SCA 5 specifically repeals that two-thirds constitutional protection currently in Article XIIIA of the California Constitution.

Second, lowering the two-thirds vote is unnecessary. With appropriate justification, the threshold can clearly be reached. According to the website California City Finance, a review of school district parcel taxes since 2012 showed that in November elections, 52 of 69, or 75% percent, were approved. Just last November, 11 out of 14 passed, an extraordinary success rate. Clearly, the two-thirds vote is not difficult to attain if a school district justifies its needs.

Third, lowering the two-thirds vote would open the door to a flood of new property tax levies. The lowering of the two-thirds vote for school bonds in 2000 via Proposition 39 is illustrative of what happens when taxpayers lose a supermajority protection. As with parcel taxes, bonds were previously required to meet the two-thirds threshold, but the vast majority passed anyway. What the supermajority vote requirement did was to ensure that the bond measures were reasonable in amount and that they would secure a broader community consensus. After the passage of Prop. 39, virtually all school bonds pass irrespective of amount or need. In November 2016, 97 percent of all Prop. 39 school bond proposals, requiring just 55% percent approval, passed.

Fourth, of all the taxes that fund education, parcel taxes are clearly the most inequitable. Because they are assigned either as a flat-rate tax per parcel or based on square footage, they are extremely regressive, disproportionately hurting those with the least ability to pay. Additional parcel taxes that add potentially hundreds of dollars to property tax bills will do nothing to ease the affordable housing issues in California, where only 30% percent of state residents can afford a median-priced home.

Fifth, for progressives the default option for all of California’s perceived ills is always higher taxes. Proposition 13 is frequently blamed by progressives as the reason schools are “starved” for revenue. But both the premise and conclusion of this contention are wrong. California now spends 30% percent more per pupil, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than the amount spent just prior to the passage of Proposition 13 — a time when both liberals and conservatives agree that California schools were among the best in the nation.

Sixth, nothing in SCA 5 relates to needed reforms in California’s educational structure. In fact, it amounts only to throwing more money into a broken system. Citizens are right to demand more efficiency and accountability with the billions of dollars in tax proceeds that we pay for education. That means incentivizing reforms, not rewarding bad behavior.

Because of the strong economy, California is generating massive amounts of additional revenue. Now is not the time to either raise taxes at the state level nor to make it easier to burden taxpayers at the local level. SCA 5 should be defeated.

Originally published in the Orange County Register.

 

 

 

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